Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pistachio Lemon bread with Lemon butter

Judith Olney has a chapter in her book called Essence Breads and their butters, and Maij decided to try the Pistachio/Lemon bread. It is more of a cake than a real bread and it is quite heavenly to eat. After it had been made we cut a couple of slices and had it with coffee on the balcony.

The strange thing about this bread is that after it has been baked you prick the top of it with a wooden kebab stick and then pour a "glaze" over it, which is basically 1/3 a cup of sugar and the juice from a lemon. I thought it would make it sodden, but somehow the bread absorbed it all and became very moist and succulent with a tang to smack your lips to.

If that is not lemony enough for you then you also have lemon butter to go along with it, which is made with 8 tbl spoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. As you can see from the photo the butter just melted into the hot bread once it was taken from the tin, and the pistachios were dotted through the bread with green nutty goodness.

Verdict: Mahtava!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Smoked fish and sunday newspaper

No we did not find a new way of cooking newspaper. We just read the day old Sunday newspaper while we were eating. When you read and eat at the same time it is a slow process, and you tend to savour the food a little more. You examine it for texture, You suck it for flavour, you pick the best bits out of one thing and leave the best bits of something else. Eating becomes and adventure, and you can quite easily pinch something off somebodies plate if they are engrossed in the gardening section.

Maija bought some lovely smoked "muikku" and we had it plain and simple with potato salad, tomato, gherkins, together with some focaccia rosemary bread. It was nice. I inspected those muikku. They were topped but not tailed. Crisp fish tails to a Finn is as chicken feet to the Chinese.

I have planted a tomato plant on the balcony, appropriately enough it is called "Balcony Star". It is a gnarly looking plant. Tough with wrinkly leaves and I am expecting a tomato that would win prizes. We shall see.

How do you take photos of food? It is quite a complicated business to get it right. Do you do close-ups? Should there be the background clutter of life? Like the newspaper or a flower. Or should it be clean and stark? I wish I knew.

The Judith Olney book has some wonderful photos in it and if you are doing her rercipes it is not good to try and repeat the same shots that she has put in her book. There has to be something different. I am still looking for a style.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Meringue dream with kumquats (Brazo de Zetor)

This is good. The visitors had seconds. And the kumquats... how do you eat those damn things. They look like small oranges. cut them open and inside all you have is seeds, big seeds, seeds that are hard and you cannot eat. Seeds that you have to throw away, and all that you are left with is the orange coloured peel and hardly any fruity flesh at all. It looks for all the world like orange peel. You do the maths... oranges 1.50 euro a kilo... kumquats 11.50 euro a kilo, and you think to yourself am I paying through the nose for orange peel? You see with kumquats you eat the peel, there is nothing else to eat from it really and the taste if you believe the supermarket is bitter sweet.

Which reminds me of artichokes... you get this hellava big green flower plonked on your plate and you wonder what bits of it are you supposed to eat. It's like drinking lemon flavoured water, and complimenting the lady of the table, how refreshing it is only to discover later that it was a finger bowl for cleaning your fingers. Such is life. Airs and graces.

4 egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
2 dl sugar
1 dl crushed almond
2 tbl cornflour.
1/2 dl almonds
Dusting of icing sugar
2 dl whipped cream
1 dl quark
1 dl strong marmalade
1 tsp vannila sugar
1 tin tangerines

Add the lemon juice to the eggs and beat, slowly add the sugar and continue to whisk,and near the end carefully add the crushed almonds and corn flour. Place the meringue mixture in a bag with a 1cm nozzle and pipe the mixture onto baking paper. Make 18 strips 35 cm long that are joined along the edges and sprinkle with almonds. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 175 C untill the meringeue just takes on some colour. Don't over cook so the meringue becomes hard. Carefully turn the sheet of soft meringue over onto baking paper and leave to cool.

For the filling whip the cream and mix in the quark, marmalade and vannilla sugar. Spread this mixture onto the soft meringue and with the aid of the baking paper carefully roll into the shape of a log, and place in the fridge to set. Just before serving dust the top with icing sugar.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Asparagus, romain pepper, onion, mushroom in a thin liquorice sauce and topped with ground black pepper and rock salt.

Asparagus is in the shops, and I just had to buy some, and fry it up in olive oil with mushrooms, onions, and peppers. No steaming for me. There is an interesting story connected with aspargus. Supposedly your pee smells different after eating asparagus. Some people thought this was due to the fact that something in the asparagus was not metabolised properly, and thus gave your pee a distictive smell. But in actual fact some people have just got more sensitive noses.

Lison et al. (1980) concluded that the urinary excretion of an odorous substance after eating asparagus is not an inborn error of metabolism as had been proposed by Allison and McWhirter (1956). Instead they suggested that the detection of the odor constitutes a specific smell hypersensitivity. Their observations on a large number of individuals indicated that those who could smell the odor in their own urine could also smell it in the urine of anyone who had eaten asparagus, whether or not that person was able to smell it himself.

Mitchell et al. (1987) stated that Nencki (1891) had shown that the odor of urine after ingestion of asparagus is due to the volatile sulfur-containing compound methanethiol, which imparts a smell similar to rotten or boiling cabbage.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Bacon and beans

Green beans, pinto beans, blackeyed peas, haricot beans, broad beans, soya beans, fava beans, French beans, jumping beans, runner beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, , mung beans, the list goes on and on and where can you get that big plump and pregnant queen of beans, the butter bean. Nowhere.

In the past I have scorned beans thinking of them in the immortal words of Bart Simpson, "Beans beans the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot", but then came the magical day in a tapas bar in Madrid. We were in there to sample some sherry. Just extremely small glasses, but lots of them and with every glass of sherry we bought the owners felt abliged to bring us some more tapas. Sizzling prawns in a garlic sauce (dribble dribble), cold cut of tuna with french mustard (smacks lips), olives stuffed with pimento (savours the acidity), whole white-bait dressed in breadcrumbs (crunches them bones and all from head to tail).

Then came the beans, big and buttery, shaped like a small kidney, coated in olive oil, with their fine skin dusted down with aromatic herbs, and black pepper. It may have been the sherries that went beforehand but somehow the butter beans, which I had held in such low esteem were suddenly elevated to something most noble, and ever since then I have wanted that taste again.

But not having any sherry I got side tracked and I did some spiced beans with bacon. Here is the recipe.

Soak a cup of butter beans in water over night. Add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt. This is the magic part since it helps the beans to absorb water and expand. You won't loose the skins when you boil them either. Drain the beans and add new water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer until tender. Low heat is esential since you don't want them to disintigrate and turn to mush. Drain the water off and add the following spices. Ground black pepper, Rock salt, fresh basil torn, fresh parsley torn, garlic pepper, and then drizzle on some olive oil and mix. Transfer the spiced beans to a dish and on top place some roughly cut strips of bacon. Place in and oven at 250 C and cook for 20 minutes. This is to give a crunchiness to the beans and the bacon is cooked to perfection. Juices from the bacon are absorbed by the beans, giving them a delicious moistness.

Now for the most important part of the operation when you have removed the dish from the oven and let it cool, you should eat the beans with your fingers. No forks or knives allowed. It is a great pleasure to pick up the beans in your fingers, and to sift around the dish for the best bits. While eating your fingers will become flavoured by the spiced juices in the dish, and you will be afforded the opportinity to lick your own fingers, or even suck them to get them clean. Don't wash them or use wipes. That would spoil everything.

Enjoy... I know I did

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The easiest, bestest foccacia ever

There is nothing better than a fresh warm bread served straight from the oven. Maija made the "Italian Picnic Bread" and it received a very good response on Flickr, but that bread is more of a meal than a snack. The best bread for snacks is foccacia since it has such a lovely structure and the presence of olive oil makes it so moist and succulent.

So I dug around and found a wonderful website with a recipe for the easiest and bestest foccacia ever. I made it exactly according to the recipe with the exception I used emental cheese which is much stronger than the mozzerella cheese suggested in the recipe. I also baked it in a dish to give it some shape, but apart from that it is a wonderful recipe and it only takes an hour from start to finnish.

This type of bread is best eaten fresh and if possible in the open air. I ripped it into bits and had it with fresh vine tomatoes, pickled gerkins, and black olives. I sat out on the balcony amongst the pots with pelargonia cuttings, and enjoyed the afternoon sun. It was not Tuscany, but it was good enough for me.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Avocado, strawberry and liquorice sauce

So I cut the avocado so there was nice little circles and into them I poured a liquorice sauce and dusted it down with icing sugar. Liquorice of the salty sort (salmiakki) is very popular in Finland. They put it in vodka and call it salmiakkikossu, and it tastes a bit like cough mixture.

The liquorice with the avocado and strawberries is nice and sweet. I made a plate for presentation, and it was so good that I made myself another plate but this time everything was just roughly cut up and smothered in the sauce.

It was then that I made an amazing discovery, food does not need to look good before you can eat it. The roughly chopped ingredients was just a luscious. Believe me this obscenely decadent avocado and strawberries with liquorice sauce is a treat for the taste buds and tongue.

Italian picnic bread

Some people say
That oysters make you
come on strong,
But I don't buy it,
I don't believe my diet
turns me on.
Won't take no pills,
That's the last thing
that I need to do,
I can't deny it,
My aphrodisiac is you.

Don't smoke no grass,
Or opium from old Hong Kong,
That hubble-bubble
Just makes me see you double
All night long.
Don't waste my time
With Spanish fly and roots to chew,
They cause me trouble,
Because my aphrodisiac is you.

Katie Melua (my aphrodisiac is you)